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How Trump’s First Three Months Point the Way to Three Percent Growth

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The great nineteenth-century man of letters William Dean Howells once made a remark that I have long cherished as a sort of personal motto: “The problem for a critic,” Howells said, “is not making enemies, but keeping them.”

A critic who does not make enemies is unlikely to be doing his job, inasmuch as criticism is the application of discrimination to human activities and such activities, by definition, will fall short of the ideal. A critic who does not make and keep enemies is likely to be a critic who fails to speak the truth.

An honest politician has to have a place in his heart for that enemy-keeping imperative if he is to merit the adjective “honest.” But a politician’s road is harder than a critic’s. A critic must be unwavering in his service to the truth of his own experience. But beyond that he needn’t worry much about making himself likable, only interesting.

An honest politician, worse luck, has to remain broadly true to his promises while also endeavoring to remain popular with voters, the people who put him into office.

Like so many activities in this sublunary world, achieving that it is a balancing act, a tapestry of compromises and negotiations—“deals,” to use a word that Donald Trump has elevated to a conspicuous place in the political lexicon.

Cynics may wonder whether, at the end of the day, there is any real difference between compromise and capitulation, negotiation and selling out to the highest bidder. Realists will know that there is a difference. The modern habit of assuming that a reliable index of someone’s wisdom is the extent of his disillusionment is as superficial as it is philistine. It’s important, in assessing a politician’s success, to keep an eye on his deeds as well as his declarations. But the tendency to cast every political statement in the worst possible light brings us closer not to the truth but merely our own cynicism.

It is with this in mind, I believe, that the oft-quoted idea that Trump’s detractors take him literally, but not seriously, while his defenders take him seriously, not literally must be understood. As we approach Trump’s hundredth day in office—the clock just turned on 91 days as I write this—it is worth stepping back and posing on Trump’s behalf the question Mayor Ed Koch made famous: “How’m I doing?”

Cynics may wonder whether, at the end of the day, there is any real difference between compromise and capitulation, negotiation and selling out to the highest bidder. Realists will know that there is a difference. The modern habit of assuming that a reliable index of someone’s wisdom is the extent of his disillusionment is as superficial as it is philistine.

It would be difficult, I suspect, for readers who get their news primarily from outlets as the New York Times, the Washington Post, MSNBC, or CNN to have any sense of Trump’s stupendous accomplishments these past three months.

For some of us, it can almost go without saying, the fact that Hillary Clinton is not president, that her political career, in fact, is over is by itself an accomplishment of history-making proportions.

“Precautions are always blamed,” Benjamin Jowett once observed, “because when successful they are deemed to have been unnecessary.” Pundits now have the luxury of speculating what a Clinton presidency would have been like. I can tell them. American would have evolved even further toward its status as a one-party state ruled by an elite, progressive oligarchy. The war that Obama inaugurated on religious freedom, on the First and Second Amendments, on enforcing America’s immigration laws, on our energy independence and status as the world’s premier military and economic power—all would have been prosecuted vigorously by a President Clinton. The ideological weaponization of government’s administrative alphabet soup—the IRS, the EPA, the DOJ, etc.—would have continued apace as conservative groups were targeted and discriminated against for the tort of dissenting from the progressive orthodoxy on any contentious issue.

Thus it is that the fact that Donald Trump, not Hillary Clinton, is president is already, just by itself, an accomplishment of the first water. And it’s not just a matter of what Hillary Clinton would have done. At issue was also who she was: a Clinton. I leave to one side the breathtaking corruption that she conspired with through her connections with the Clinton Foundation and its various pay-to-play schemes. I leave to one side also her callous and mendacious incompetence in handling the terrorist attacks on our consulate at Benghazi, her scandalous and routine mishandling of classified material and deployment of a home-brew email server. Leave that to one side and think just of the precedent she would have set had she become president: no, I am not talking about her anatomical status as female, but rather her dynastic status as a Clinton. Had she won, the presidency of the United States for the last twenty years would have shuffled between three families. That alone would have set an ominous precedent and upsetting that counts as a large bullet dodged.

But what else has Trump wrought in his 91 days as president? To listen to the legacy media, the answer is: not much. Many near-top-tier jobs have gone unfilled. The much ballyhooed repeal of Obamacare failed on its first go around. Tax cuts haven’t happened. The progressive Jared Kushner-Ivanka wing of Trump’s advisors seems to have gained ascendancy (at least according to the Sanhedrin of the MSM) over the Steve-Bannon populist wing. In short, it’s a shambles all around.

That, anyway, is the gospel according to the progressive megaphones.

The message is far different on the ground. Quite apart from the permanent rustication of Hillary Clinton, Trump has moved with blinding speed to start fulfilling many of his major campaign promises.

  • Immigration. Illegal border crossings are down by more than 90 percent. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is once again enforcing the nation’s immigration laws. Deportations are down because there are fewer illegal penetrations of US borders. In other words, Trump’s policy is shaping up to be a major success.
  • Sanctuary cities, i.e., cities where federal immigration laws are essentially suspended. Trump promised to end them. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is working overtime to make that happen. Earlier today, he wrote at least eight jurisdictions warning them that they may be failing to comply with immigration laws and that they were therefore in jeopardy of losing federal grants. Some cities, notably in California and New York, have blustered that they will continue to resist abiding by the law, but I predict they will change their tune once the spigot of federal funds is turned off.
  • Energy. The Keystone and Dakota access pipelines. Need I say more? Yes? How about “coal”: that should settle the question.
  • Foreign affairs. Under Obama, you had the unenforced red lines of a pink politician. Under Trump, you have 59 Tomahawk missiles directed at a Syrian air force base that carried out a Sarin gas attack, followed a few days later by the destruction of an ISIS tunnel complex in Afghanistan with one 21,000-pound super bomb. You also have successful face-to-face diplomatic meetings with President Xi Jinping of China, Prime Minister Theresa May, and even Chancellor Angela Merkel. Earlier today, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel publicly told Secretary of Defense James Mattis that he welcomes the “strategic change of American leadership and American policy.” The Russians are stamping their feet but Trump continues his course. Meanwhile, the Chinese seem to have been enlisted to help with the problem of the Kim Jong-Un, the cartoon-like dictator of North Korea. In Seoul a couple of days ago, Vice President Pence echoed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s warning that America’s “strategic patience” with North Korea’s minatory antics was at an end. Trump underscored that partly by parading a lot of military hardware in and around the Korean peninsula, partly by tweeting that “North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them!”
  • The Supreme Court. Neil Gorsuch. Also, Neil Gorsuch. And may I add, Neil Gorsuch? Thanks to the Federalist Society for preparing that list of twenty-odd names from which Trump plucked his first Supreme Court nominee. Trump will likely have to avail himself of at least two more justices and who knows how many federal judges “very much in the mold of Justice Scalia.”
  • Regulation. First there’s the two for one rule: want a new regulation? Get rid of two others first. And then there is the spate of executive orders aimed and reducing onerous and inefficient regulation. It’s early days yet, but so far it seems to be working.

Two big question marks hover over the issues of health care and tax cuts. Despite the many confident prognostications from the punditocracy, I think it is impossible to say when or what is going to happen on either issue. We’re ninety days into a new administration now. Come back at day 360.

There is also the large issue of economic growth. The stock market, which is up about 2,500 points since Donald Trump was elected, clearly is bullish on his policies. Will that enthusiasm be translated into 3 percent or better growth? If so, the pathetic pink-hatted females can jump up and down all they like, the Black Lives Matter protesters can continue their policy of violent racial redress, disappointed commentators, who had pinned their hopes for advancement on a Clinton presidency, can continue to sulk and reassure one another that Donald Trump is “not their president.” It won’t matter. If Donald Trump reaches and sustains that magic number of 3 percent growth for the major part of his first term, he can count upon a second term as well. I fully expect him to maintain plenty of enemies, just as William Dean Howells advised, but they’ll be off caterwauling in the wilderness, as irrelevant to the process then as they were to the election last fall.

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America • Asia • China • Deterrence • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • The Media • Trump White House

The Grand Illusion: How Trump Tricked China and The Press

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Well known film reviewer, Mike D’Angelo, writes, “Magic tricks frequently involve misdirection. In order to create an illusion, the magician needs to perform an action the audience shouldn’t see; this requires providing them [the audience] with something else on which they can focus.” Looking at the recent summit between President Donald J. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago, who can seriously challenge the notion that Trump performed the greatest trick in recent geopolitical history?

Going into the Sino-American summit, the two leaders were at odds. Trump had campaigned vociferously against bad trade deals with China and advocated for  standing up to Chinese military aggression. During the transition from the Obama Administration to the Trump Administration, Trump fielded a congratulatory phone call from the pro-independence Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. This move challenged American foreign policy orthodoxy.

Since President Jimmy Carter, the United States refused to recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state. We chose instead to accept the “One-China” policy that said that the only legitimate government of China was the Chinese Communist Party. While we would not allow for China to forcefully reunite Taiwan with the mainland, we would no longer treat Taiwan as a sovereign state. When Trump accepted the call from President Tsai Ing-wen, he sent a message to China: Don’t take anything for granted.

Later on, Trump began talking about creating a border tax for products coming into the country from places like Mexico and China. Since the United States is a leading importer of Chinese goods, this was a direct threat to the Chinese economy. After all, China’s economy—while still performing better than America’s—has been flagging, in no small part due to decreased demand from the Emerging Markets for Chinese exports.

Meanwhile, President Xi Jinping of China, an ardent nationalist, doubled-down on his country’s unlawful claims to islands in the South China Sea and openly advocated for greater globalization at the Davos conference. Xi also enhanced his country’s support for rogue states like North Korea, increased ties with Russia, and continued undermining of American power wherever it can be so undermined.

It seemed as though no headway would be made going into the Mar-a-Lago Summit. And, had Trump been a conventional politician, it is likely that he would have given the proverbial store away for a token photo op with Xi. But, geopolitics is akin to magic, and the best practitioners of geopolitics often use the same tools of theatricality and deception to aid them in their quest for greatness.

The thrust of the Mar-a-Lago Summit was about how Trump could get Xi Jinping to embrace regime change in North Korea.

Remember, North Korea has been a client state of China’s going back to the Korean War in the 1950’s. Chinese protection on the international stage ensures that the North can defy Western sanctions imposed upon it. Indeed, China is the main reason why Kim Jong-un is in power in North Korea.

We’ve heard over the decades that the only way to ensure that North Korea does not go nuclear is to topple the Kim regime. However, we won’t do that because of the costs involved, the risk to South Korea (and the wider region), and the fact that China would likely feel compelled to send military forces to their stricken client state’s aid. That, of course, would risk igniting another world war.

Instead, we were encouraged to effectively bribe the North Koreans. We gave the Kim regime billions of dollars in foreign aid per year in exchange for the Kim regime promising not to develop nuclear arms. Of course, the Kim regime took the money and continued building bombs. They felt safe doing this because they knew that China ultimately had their back. But why would China protect such an unstable actor like North Korea?

The answer is largely economic. China gets much of its coal from the North. For China to continue its meteoric economic growth (which is, in fact, naturally slowing), China must have easy access to large quantities of cheap energy. Coal is a prime commodity in China. Since China uses its muscle to defend the North abroad, the North gives China its coal at cost. This has the effect of protecting the Chinese Communist Party’s monopoly of power at home. If the CCP continues delivering the economic goods to the Chinese people, then the people will feel less inclined to revolt against the CCP. Plus, China does not want to contend with a North Korean refugee crisis. So, if they buttress the Kim regime, they at least get some semblance of stability.

Trump understood this. Since President Trump is the master of the art of the deal, he likely spent the last several months bashing China as an opening bid in his effort to topple Kim Jong-un at cost. So, Trump and his team assembled a catchy deal with China: America will sell China its coal and grant Chinese firms access to America’s lucrative market, if China promises to stabilize North Korea after the United States topples Kim Jong-un. For all of their rhetoric about the evils of America, Xi and his fellow CCP apparatchiks yearn for greater access to American markets.

Besides, Xi was growing weary of Kim Jong-un. He was likely already looking for a way of ridding China of its troublesome neighbor. Trump’s proposal would have given Xi his opening. Of course, Xi couldn’t have simply accepted such a deal at face value. What’s more, Trump couldn’t allow for the preening press to misrepresent what he was trying to do. He needed a distraction; a grand illusion.

Here’s the trick: get everyone to pay attention to the Syrian Civil War by striking at Assad while Trump made a secret backroom deal with Xi. As an added benefit, America gets to put the fear of its military might back into China’s mind. Don’t believe me? Look at what’s happened since the meeting between Trump and Xi.

No sooner had the Trump Administration launched its volley of Tomahawk cruise missiles at Assad’s air base, than China refused to accept a major shipment of vital coal from North Korea. The United States has deployed a flotilla to the western Pacific Ocean. Also, the renowned U.S. Navy SEAL Team 6 has been deployed to South Korea on a “training mission.” Just what are they training for? Only the SEALs know for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it involves ensuring that Kim Jong-un is soon to have a very bad day. Oh, yeah, and China just moved 150,000 of its troops to the North Korean border.

Just as D’Angelo described, Trump’s magic trick was a misdirection for both the press and the Chinese. He created an illusion—the attack on Assad—to distract his audience, while he deftly performed an action only he and Xi could see. In one fell swoop, then, Trump managed to set the stage for regime change in North Korea without repeating the missteps of Iraq. He’s reinvigorated America’s military prestige. Also, by opening up American coal to Chinese interests, President Trump has upheld his campaign pledge to coal miners. President Trump has also rehabilitated the ailing Sino-American relationship (what was once dubbed “Chimerica”).

The only question we should be asking ourselves is whether or not coal-for-regime-change was the end of the deal? Since the press is incapable of doing its job, I will leave you with the open-ended question of what could have possibly prompted China to abandon its decades-long support of North Korea? After all, I still believe that China plans on pushing America out of the Asia-Pacific, if given the opportunity. Still, I would be happy to be proven wrong on that notion. My hope is that the mere promise of a better deal from America (coupled with America’s renewed military vigor following the Assad strikes) was enough. But, I suppose, we may not know for sure for some time.

Until then, we must concede that President Trump has not only made American foreign policy great again, but he’s also made great power politics fun again (and at cost)!

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Open Borders Do Not Lead to Prosperity

Illegal immigration has plagued the United States for decades. The business, political, media, and academic elite in America today insist that the unfettered movement of all people will, among other things, lead to a greater level of innovation. According to this theory, whenever America becomes less inviting to foreigners, that talent chooses to go elsewhere. As Ángel Cabrera, president of George Mason University argued recently, that loss of foreign talent was “others’ gain.”

The implication is that President Trump’s strict stance on illegal immigration is somehow harmful to America because it diminishes the likelihood that foreign innovators will look for a better life in the United States.

This is nothing but an old straw man argument deployed by the Left and corporatist Right. Fact is, Trump has never favored ending all immigration into the United States. He has quite vociferously defended legal immigration into the country, especially when that immigration is in the national interest.

Cabrera also asserts, “Immigrants or their children started more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies, according to the Kauffman Foundation, and more than 50 percent of billion-plus startups had at least one foreign-born founder.”

But what Cabrera fails to acknowledge is that absolutely none of these individuals came to the United States illegally. So, presumably, the president’s “draconian” stance on illegal immigration would not have deterred these legal immigrants.

When Trump speaks of building a wall, or temporarily halting immigration from a handful of Middle Eastern and African countries over national security concerns, he is not isolating America. He is defending it from those who seek to harm our people. It has nothing to do with racism or fear mongering.

Unlike Cabrera and his fellow globalists, Trump understands that illegal immigration is quite different from legal immigration. Indeed, it is a grave threat that the president must neutralize.

Just this week, there was an horrific incident reported in Rockville, Maryland about an innocent 14 year-old girl who was brutally raped by two immigrants, aged 17 and 18, at her school. The older of the two immigrants crossed into the U.S. illegally seven months ago. Turns out, the two young men were classified as “Dreamers.” This, as Rockville debates whether or not it will become a sanctuary city and politicians strive to make Maryland a “sanctuary state” for illegal immigrants.

Globalists offer dubious moral arguments in support of illegal immigration. They make the empty promise that these immigrants will, by and large, contribute more to society than “lazy” working-class folks who supported Trump. Because our own poor are so repugnant to these globalists, they would like to import a new lower class beholden to them. So they claim illegal immigrants are really the future and whoever recognizes this fact first will win politically and economically.

Or so the narrative goes. Reality is quite different.

Look at the two young men who raped that poor girl in Maryland. They came from Guatemala and El Salvador, countries that have been destabilized by the Mexican drug war. Does anyone really believe either of these two young men would become the next Steve Jobs?

Of course not.

America should start focusing its own human resources. We have to invest in developing our own human capital. The United States needs serious education reform that can maximize the potential of all of our people. This is something that America has lacked for decades.

For the last 20 years, countries like China and India were making serious investments into their educational systems. They wanted to create the next wave of global innovators, business leaders, and scientists. Meanwhile, in America, we concoct lame Common Core standards and worry about whether or not little Johnny can tinkle in the girls’ restroom.

We spent the last 20 years telling our kids they were the best simply because they existed. In China, meanwhile, children are rigorously conditioned at a young age to compete academically; they are encouraged by their families and the state to seek employment in fields such as science, technology, engineering, and math (all while their “civic” instruction teaches that the West is their enemy). Chinese leadership recognized that the source of their own strength is in its people at the very moment that the United States appears to have forgotten this basic truth.

Economists describe “human capital” as the “skills, creativity, and enterprise” of a country’s populace. Nobel laureate economist James Heckman insists that countries such as the United States must “invest in families and nurture the cognitive and social skills in children from birth to age 5 […] The payoff—7% to 10% on the dollar—in greater academic success, future productivity and economic prosperity is the best investment around.” And, as Susan Ochsbhorn wrote, “By some estimates, human capital creates two-thirds of a modern economy’s wealth.”

There’s a reason that, in 2012, KPMG’s global Tech Innovation Survey found 43 percent of respondents said Silicon Valley’s “crown would be passed elsewhere” and that a plurality of respondents (45 percent) believed that China was the “country most likely to be the next innovation center.”

Many analysts believe that quantum computing will be the future of computers. Do you know which country just had some of the greatest breakthroughs with this technology? China. Last September, China launched its quantum Internet satellite. This technology, if it works as planned, likely will revolutionize the way that we communicate globally. It could potentially replace the Internet as we know it today.

What’s more, it will confer an unimaginable strategic advantage upon China’s armed forces. Toward that end, the Chinese created a quantum radar that they claim can penetrate American stealth technology, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Not so long ago,  such revolutionary and complex technology would have been pioneered in the United States. But this is what happens when America no longer invests in its future.

In terms of gross domestic product (GDP), China is the second-largest economy in the world today and the largest in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP). They are producing future innovators and industry leaders at amazing rates.

This is an odd turn of events, if Cabrera’s arguments on the necessity of open borders hold true.

After all, China is a relatively closed society with strict immigration policies (to say nothing of its mercantilist trade policies). Yet, here China is beating out “free trade” states like the United Kingdom and Canada, and chipping away at America’s lead. Indeed, China is slated to overtake the U.S. economy (in terms of GDP) as early as 2018.

Something isn’t quite right here. How is China so successful if it has such restrictive immigration policies?

People like Ángel Cabrera are completely wrong. Illegal immigration helps no one—least of all the victims of illegal immigrants. If America wants to compete (and win), it must invest in the people who are already here. Open borders are not the path to prosperity.

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Beware the Headline Trap: Tillerson to Meet With NATO Ministers—on Wednesday

“Exclusive: Tillerson plans to skip NATO meeting, visit Russia in April—sources,” read the headline of a Reuters story first published Monday.

“Well, that doesn’t seem right. It also seems politically stupid,” I thought, before I clicked on the article and read it. Turns out, the headline is misleading at best, and downright dishonest at worst.

Yes, it is true that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will be missing the NATO meeting. But it is not, as the headline implies, because he is opting for a meeting with the Russians.

Turns out, Chinese President Xi Jinping will be in the United States visiting President Trump, and Trump wants his secretary of state there for the meeting. I mean, it’s not like China is making territorial claims over a massive swath of international waters that would give it control over half the planet’s merchant shipping, or recently implied it was willing to use nuclear force in defense of the disputed islands in the South China Sea by flying a nuclear-capable bomber over them.

And it’s not like North Korea, the client state of China, is improving its nuclear long-range missile capabilities, and the United States could really use Chinese cooperation on enforcing sanctions to slow North Korea’s progress.

Oh, yes, actually, all of those things are happening, and the president of the United States understandably wants his secretary of state in the room when he has a chat with China’s president.

China is at the center of numerous serious national security problems that directly affect the United States. It would be good if the country’s most powerful officials could work something out with the Chinese head of state while he’s here.

But what about NATO? Aren’t our NATO allies important, too?

Yes. Secretary of Defense James Mattis was just in Brussels addressing the NATO defense ministers in February to reassure allies and also to explain the limits of our patience with most of the alliance members’ anemic demonstration of commitment to the organization. My favorite line was this one: “Americans cannot care more for your children’s security than you do. Disregard for military readiness demonstrates a lack of respect for ourselves, for the alliance, and for the freedoms we inherited, which are now clearly threatened.” Mattis also clearly expressed the importance of a strong NATO and America’s commitment to it.

But, one might say, that is Secretary Mattis. Secretary Tillerson doesn’t seem to get NATO’s importance. Except that he was Waterford Crystal clear in his confirmation hearing that he recognizes the critical importance of the alliance and understands the U.S. Article V commitment to collective defense is inviolable.

And another thing worth noting as stated in the Reuters story: “A State Department spokeswoman said Tillerson would meet on Wednesday with foreign ministers from 26 of the 27 other NATO countries—all but Croatia—at a gathering of the coalition working to defeat the Islamic State militant group.”

Got that? As in: tomorrow Tillerson will, in fact, meet with NATO foreign ministers, even if he won’t make the meeting the first week in April—because he does not control the laws of space and time.

Here’s a thought: If the NATO foreign ministers really want the U.S. secretary of state at their meeting, perhaps they should coordinate with his scheduler? If not, they’ll just have to chat with him Wednesday.

But surely there must be something scandalous here about Russia! The headline implied Russia has something to do with Tillerson not making a particular NATO meeting.

The Reuters reporters even included the following quote from U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs: “Donald Trump’s administration is making a grave error that will shake the confidence of America’s most important alliance and feed the concern that this administration simply too cozy with (Russian President) Vladimir Putin.”

Heavy stuff, no? “Grave error.” “Shake the confidence.”

Well, perhaps that was a bit over the top. Contrast Engel’s remark with the quote of Antoni Macierewicz, the defense minister of stalwart NATO ally Poland, who said in response to the January deployment of 4,000 American troops to Poland—the biggest deployment of U.S. troops to Europe in decades: “Today I know that Poland will not be threatened… God bless American President Trump.”

But this newfound assurance doesn’t fit the narrative that the Trump administration is too cozy with the Russians. So, let’s put it aside, and get back to Russia.

Later in April, after Tillerson meets with the G7 (in addition to the United States, the group includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom), he is meeting with the Russians. But what does this have to do with him missing the NATO meeting? As far as I can tell by reading the article, it has as much to do with it as the price of tea in China.

Which brings us back to the real reason he is missing the NATO meeting in the first place. Tillerson is meeting with Chinese President Xi.

Observant consumers of the media are now on to the exaggerated, dramatic, misleading, and sometimes downright false reporting of major media outlets. But less careful readers and those already inclined to believe the “everything has everything to do with Russia” narrative will be susceptible to falling for these kind of headline traps, especially when lazy reporters merely copy headlines and stories that bring high numbers of clicks, as many news outlets did with this one.

Let this be a cautionary tale: don’t fall for headline traps, and don’t let friends fall for them, either.

America • Asia • China • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Economy • Foreign Policy • Republicans • Terrorism • Trade • Trump White House

China is Taking Afghanistan—at U.S. Expense

Americans didn’t fight and die in Afghanistan so China could extract its copper.

The Chinese military is conducting joint operations with the Pakistanis and Afghan security forces along the Chinese border, according to recent reports. The targets are jihadist elements, particularly a budding presence of Islamic State and other like-minded groups operating in Afghanistan. China’s goal is to curb terrorist threats that may emanate from Afghanistan and be directed against China’s Xinjiang Province.

The Pentagon is fully aware of China’s presence in Afghanistan. But this isn’t good news. Fact is, the 15-year war in Central Asia isn’t going well the United States. China’s ascent in Afghanistan simply underscores the extent of America’s troubles there. Our loss is China’s gain.

China’s western border is threatened by jihadist terrorism, just as America is threatened. So it makes sense that Americans and the Chinese would align to fight terrorists in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the Chinese are conducting these limited counterterrorism missions with the Pakistanis, against American interests. Improving cooperation between China and Pakistan means increasing tensions with India, which has been in unceasing conflict with Pakistan for much of the past 50 years.

By operating in tandem with Afghan security forces, the Chinese further pull Afghanistan away from Washington’s wobbling political orbit and closer to Beijing. This will allow the Chinese to secure their economic interests in Afghanistan, at America’s expense.

In the early days of the war in Afghanistan, the United States sought allies to assist in defeating the terrorist scourge—not only al Qaeda, but also the Taliban and the Haqqani Network, to name only a few. China, despite an increasingly restive Uighur Muslim population concentrated in far-off Xinjiang, consistently refused to provide any kind of support to the U.S. war effort in Central Asia. The Chinese, perhaps not unreasonably, had no interest in contributing large sums of money and resources on the Bush Administration’s quixotic attempt to turn Kabul into the Paris of the Hindu-Kush.

Instead, China sat back and watched the carnage unfold. They let the Americans over-commit to its hubristic mission in Afghanistan. Even though the United States was able to push al Qaeda and the Taliban out of key strategic areas of Afghanistan, it failed to destroy either. Instead, both groups fled to neighboring Pakistan, where they relied on ethno-religious ties with local tribes (mostly the Pashtun) to protect them.

Around 2010, China made its first deal . . . with the Taliban! Chinese foreign policy is a bit more utilitarian and mercantilistic than America’s tends to be. The Chinese do things based on hard-headed calculations of ends-and-means. For Chinese policymakers, the first goal is to sustain their country’s meteoric rise. If they cannot, people will protest and the Chinese Communist Party will lose its grip on power. Thus, acquiring scores of natural resources is essential.

Turns out, Afghanistan—despite being a rocky, mountainous country split by tribalism and ruled in the hinterlands by warlords—is chock full of valuable natural resources. It may not possess oil, but, it does possess copper and other rare minerals that a country like China desperately needs.

China recently gained approval from the Taliban to begin extracting from the country’s largest copper mine, Mes Aynak. This is the start of major Chinese investment in Afghanistan’s natural resources. The fact that the Chinese went to the Taliban (who control the mine) is telling, too. Make no mistake: it is widely assumed that the Taliban will retake Afghanistan—if not entirely, then at least partially—once U.S. and NATO forces leave. The Chinese, Russians, and Pakistanis have been preparing accordingly: making deals, operating alongside of, and buttressing the growing Taliban power in the periphery of Afghanistan.

But the Chinese have also taken it upon themselves to begin training Afghan security forces and working more closely with the Afghan national government in Kabul. While regional experts, such as Franz Stefan-Grady, say greater Chinese involvement in Afghanistan is a good thing for the country’s stabilization, I suspect that this is less about the greater good and more about pragmatism.

China wants to gain a monopoly over any natural resources in Afghanistan. Beijing also wants to ensure the chaos in Afghanistan does not spill over into China. So the Chinese will support any group that will assist them in their efforts for greater commerce and greater security.

The fact that the Chinese are working with Afghan security forces along their border does not negate their willingness to work with the Taliban at the Mes Aynak copper mine (and elsewhere). If the experts are thinking that China will do anything truly substantive to combat the Taliban, they are dead wrong.

Truth is, China has been a consistent free rider in Afghanistan. It has benefited commercially from the country while investing little in actually stabilizing it. Instead China has left that expensive and seemingly impossible task to the United States.

During last year’s presidential election, Donald Trump excoriated the George W. Bush Administration for not having taken Iraq’s oil to pay for the Iraq War. He similarly lambasted the Obama Administration for allowing ISIS to exploit Iraqi oil for its war effort. He believed that if America was to go to war in the Mideast or Central Asia (in Afghanistan’s case)—sacrificing so much toil and treasure—it should have been understood that America would take the oil until the war debt was repaid. He vowed to do something similar should he have to involve the United States in another costly war in the Muslim world during his presidency.

Well, there is already a costly war going on—in Afghanistan. The Trump Administration should consider seizing the copper mines (and other resource rich areas) in the name of the United States. The goal should be to develop those resources until the nearly $1 trillion war debt from the war in Afghanistan is paid down. Or, the United States should simply sell access to those assets and recoup its financial losses that way. Why should the Chinese benefit from our sacrifice in the mountains of Afghanistan?

If the Chinese wanted their share, they should have committed to the war effort. We have spent 15 years attempting to “stabilize” Afghanistan—yet the threat remains. In fact, it has intensified over the past eight years. With Pakistan, Russia, and now China all piling on (not to mention ISIS inserting itself in Afghanistan recently), America needs to recoup some of its losses.

The Trump Administration shouldn’t allow China, of all places, to profit from our war in Afghanistan. If any foreign power is going to profit from those resources, it should be America.

America • Center for American Greatness • China • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • History • Trump White House

China Just Blinked In Korea

In the aftermath of the assassination of Kim Jong-un’s half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, and the brutal murder of several highly placed North Korean leaders, Kim Jong-un has signaled to his Chinese benefactors that he cares little for their opinion. You see, these people were associated with China. In fact, it was assumed that Kim Jong-nam was a potential replacement for the increasingly unstable Kim Jong-un. These developments come on the heels of a series of North Korean missile tests indicating that the North is intent on developing their long-range capabilities.

It is believed that within the next two years North Korea will have the requisite knowledge to launch missiles at the United States’ Pacific coastline. Under such conditions, the United States and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) are poised to conduct another round of their joint military drills. These drills are an annual exercise that tests the interoperability of American and South Korean forces in wartime conditions. Historically, these drills send the North Koreans into an unbridled rage.

In this morass, finally, the Chinese have stepped forward. They have offered to broker a deal whereby the United States and South Korea will not conduct the annual military exercises in exchange for China getting North Korea to abandon pursuit of its nuclear weapons. While it is clear that Kim Jong-un’s mania has finally caused China’s spine to stiffen, there is little doubt that this proposal is also the result of increasing uncertainty as to how the new Trump Administration will react to North Korea’s repeated provocations.

We should all be glad that China has at last decided to take its promise to rein in North Korea more seriously. Unfortunately for China, however, they ought to have been more solicitous of this promise sooner; at least a decade ago. Now, Chinese calls for a deal ring hollow. Where were they when the George W. Bush Administration allowed for the Six-Party Talks to spearhead the resolution of the North Korean nuclear situation? Where were the Chinese when the Kim Regime successfully tested a rudimentary nuclear weapon? Oh, that’s right: the Chinese were bankrolling the mad regime!

Are the Chinese really getting tougher on North Korea?

First, getting the United States and the South Koreans to stand down from a vital defensive exercise is not “getting tough” with North Korea. Should the Trump Administration take this diplomatic bait, all that will occur is the telegraphing to North Korea by the United States that it is not serious in protecting its interests on the Korean Peninsula. Kim Jong-un would thus be induced to perpetrate even more grandiose gestures against the West. The mere appearance of Chinese cooperation should not be enough to sway us.. There must be real movement.

Second, the Chinese may be setting the stage for a regime change in the North. But, don’t let this prospect go to your head: the Chinese are never going to support a unified, democratic Korean peninsula. More likely they are going to replace the manic Kim Jong-un with a Chinese stooge who will keep “stability” in the North-South dynamic (read, continue oppressing the North Koreans and threatening the South). That’s like replacing Adolf Hitler with Walter Ulbricht. Not much of an improvement, if you ask me (certainly not an improvement from Seoul’s perspective).

On top of not wanting a unified, democratic, pro-American Korean peninsula, the Chinese want to prevent a refugee wave from besieging their border. If a full-scale regime change followed on by unification were to take place, China’s border would become inundated with North Koreans fleeing the chaos. The Chinese view this as potentially destabilizing. Thus, the Chinese are very keen for another pro-China strongman to rule over North Korea.

As the great geopolitical analyst, Robert Kaplan points out in his book, Monsoon, the Korean conflict is the last vestige of the Cold War; it is a frozen conflict, from a forgotten war. The world—and especially the Korean people—needs to move on from this conflict.

Allowing the Chinese to resolve anything in this campaign will only lead to an entirely new set of security dilemmas for the United States. The Chinese long-term goals are to push the United States out of the Asia-Pacific entirely. We simply have too many interests in that region of the world to be seen yielding on this. Letting the Chinese take the lead in this area will not be conducive to America’s long-term interests.

To be fair, the Chinese overture is a positive sign that something constructive can be done. However, the Trump Administration must not take this deal at face value. The only path forward is for the United States to increase its presence on the Korean peninsula while encouraging both the South Koreans and the Japanese (the countries most threatened by North Korean brinkmanship) to expand their military capabilities. Indeed, the United States should encourage both Japan and South Korea to develop nuclear arsenals of their own, in much the same way that America allowed for Israel to develop its own arsenal. That would be the ultimate check against North Korea.

Also, the idea that the North will remain separated from the South, is absurd. The Koreans are a singular people. Whatever happens, the great powers of the world must ensure that the country remains unified under Seoul’s rule.

Of course, what I am talking about is not nation-building of the sort that pursued by the George W. Bush Administration in either Iraq or Afghanistan. I am talking about a concert of powers (the United States, China, South Korea, and North Korea, for instance) coordinating an equitable post-Kim Regime settlement. While the United States can—and should—assist its South Korean partners in any unification, the South must do the heavy-lifting on its own.

The United States should make clear that under any unification strategy, the Chinese would have a serious role to play. America must respect and address China’s own concerns about having a unified, democratic Korean peninsula along their border. Any attempt to cut China out of a unification settlement on the Korean Peninsula would doom Sino-American relations.

This recent Chinese overture must be understood as an opening bid, not a fait accompli. The U.S.-ROK military drill should continue lest China does something more meaningful. A comprehensive agreement for ending the North-South conflict that has torn Korea apart for decades must be forged. The Trump Administration should refuse to discontinue any joint military exercise (or do anything that might weaken the South Korean position) unless China gets the North to completely abandon its nuclear program. The North must also open itself up to U.S. weapons inspections. It must demilitarize. Furthermore, if the North does not open itself up to trade, then there will be no change in U.S.-South Korean military relations. Of course, the North will not make these changes—even if China were to change leaders in the North.

Make no mistake, China just blinked. America must take advantage of this. A unified Korean peninsula is the only long-term solution to this problem. China will have to recognize this. Otherwise, there will be a forcible reunification of Korea without Chinese input. This will not be salutary to China’s long-term strategic interests.

 

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Deficits Do Matter

When former Vice President Dick Cheney nonchalantly quipped to former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill that “deficits don’t matter,” every fiscal conservative and anti-war liberal set their proverbial hair on fire. Under President George W. Bush, a modest surplus left behind by his predecessor was spent away on ill-advised entitlement programs, the mismanaged wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a retinue of other policies that should have never been tried in the first place. Budget deficits arise when spending is higher than revenue collected each year (in the form of taxes). The national debt is, in part, the accumulation of those budget deficits.

Under President Barack Obama, federal spending increased to historic levels. Obama spent more than all 43 U.S. presidents who came before him. By Obama’s second term, the national debt came to match the entire U.S. economy. Today, borrowing stands at $19.5 trillion and counting. Compare that to the size of the second-largest economy in the world (according to GDP), China, which tops $9.24 trillion. Not only does our economy outstrip China’s, but our debt burden is also larger than the entire Chinese economy!

 

Think about it this way: U.S. GDP is roughly $17 trillion. Under President Trump, it is expected to grow significantly. Yet, the debt burden will continue to outpace this incredible level unless the Trump Administration does something it has refused to discuss on the campaign trail: address the problems of entitlements and defense spending.

To some on the Right, the U.S. government is nothing but one, big, green military jobs program. There isn’t a job that the Pentagon cannot do and there certainly should not be a cap on what money is spent on the Defense Department. Never mind the endless amount of waste that the Pentagon commits. I suppose we should ignore the positive correlation between the size of the Pentagon bureaucracy and the increase in inefficiency. It’s the image that matters, right? As a friend of mine who works in the Pentagon recently remarked, “The DoD has become nothing more than yet another federal jobs program.” Cuts can—and must—be made there.

For the Left, the welfare state is the holy grail of public policy. It is the primary pillar that the modern Democratic Party is built upon. But that pillar has been slowly crumbling beneath the weight of retiring Baby Boomers (and, since Boomers did not reproduce in sufficient numbers, the subsequent dearth of young workers to make up for the strain that the Boomers, as they retire, are placing on the system).

Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid account for 77 percent of America’s spending. Even without the over $1 trillion spent thus far on the Iraq and Afghan Wars, the Big Three entitlement programs are killing America’s economy.

But, let’s face it: the real economic killer is the intensive government spending on non-defense policies.

Donald Trump was the only Republican in the 2016 campaign who refused to attack the entitlement system. This was a smart move. People like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker or Senator Ted Cruz of Texas had made touching the “third rail” of politics a core theme of their campaigns. This had the effect of scaring the elderly and unnecessarily giving the Left ammunition to use against the Republicans (mainly, the Left could convincingly, if erroneously, claim that the Right wanted throw grandma off of a cliff).

Trump’s refusal to offer an open critique of the entitlement system during the campaign enraged his Republican opponents. It also sent chills down the spines of the Left, as the Democrats could not use their preferred attacks against a Republican candidate; they couldn’t pigeonhole Trump as the irresponsible government slasher who was beholden to the wealthy (that was Hillary, actually). This sort of pragmatism should not have been shocking to anyone, though. Remember, Trump aggravated the Right during the primary in Iowa when he took the campaign pledge to ensure that Iowa farmers remained federally subsidized to grow crops for use in ethanol production.

That was smart politics. It kept pressure off of the Trump campaign and allowed the Trump team to continue taking the fight to his critics. Do you remember the famous Tea Party townhalls in 2009 and 2010? Do you remember the much-ballyhooed elderly gentlemen waving the sign, “Keep your government hands off of my Medicare”? While that man was mocked by the elites on both the Right and Left, his statement signified something powerful: that the populist movement taking hold across America, while opposed to Obamacare and excessive government overreach, refused to let go of their benefits from the Big Three entitlement programs.

To these people, it was their right; they had, after all, paid their hard-earned tax dollars into the system. Of course, the system was bankrupted long before those protests began.

If you are an elderly person today and are dependent upon Social Security payments, then you have likely witnessed a serious decline in your standard of living. Why? Because the federal government has routinely pilfered funds set aside for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and used them for other purposes (robbing Peter today to pay Paul tomorrow). This is to say nothing of how Obamacare gutted Medicare, or how the Obama “middle-class tax cuts” drastically reduced the funding for Social Security.

President Trump needs to recognize that no matter how much job creation and prosperity he can foster in the short-term, it will all have been naught should the debt continue increasing at the rate that it has been these last eight years. As the Chinese finance minister warned Treasury Secretary Hank Paulsen in 2008, America’s debt has become a strategic liability for the United States (and for any country doing business with us).

The only way that the Trump Administration can avoid leaving a steaming bag of excrement for future generations is to make the case for serious reform in the entitlement system and for responsible defense cuts. What most Americans are paying into these entitlement systems is far higher than whatever they’re going to get in return. This is particularly true of my generation (the Millennials).

No other Republican has the standing required to make this argument with a large chunk of the American people (particularly Baby Boomers, who decide elections and policies in this country). Trump may be the only leader who can responsibly reform entitlement and defense spending. What’s more, Trump not being a typical ideologue means that he can address these problems in a meaningful way. While it is unlikely that he can address these issues in the next six months (he has to focus on Obamacare repeal and tax reform), the Trump Administration must begin orienting itself toward addressing the staggering debt load that this country has created for itself.

Significant reform and cuts to both defense and entitlement spending is the only thing that will reduce our public debt load. Should President Trump simply punt on this issue, I can assure you, resolving it will be untenable. Eventually, that ticking debt bomb will detonate—and all of us end up paying for it. President Trump is the only man who can prevent such a stark future from happening.

Deficits really do matter. They add to the national debt, which, as we’ve seen, is a ticking time bomb. We must, therefore, address deficit spending by reforming the way that the government spends the tax dollars that it collects each year. We’ve put off the reckoning for too long. President Trump has a singular opportunity to make a deal that would lower our deficit, reduce the national debt, and make our entitlement system and Department of Defense actually perform the functions they’re meant to do.

America • China • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Economy • Foreign Policy • History • Russia • Trade

China Doesn’t Want a Better Deal

Donald J. Trump campaigned on a platform that he was going to make the greatest deals imaginable for the United States. According to this view, he rightly criticized the way that China has cheated the United States. In fact, he appointed Peter Navarro to be the head of the White House National Trade Council. In 2012, Navarro made waves for his brilliant documentary on how China has undercut U.S. interests through ceaseless economic warfare. Trump is keenly aware of China’s recent military moves aimed at undermining the American presence in the South China Sea and Southeast Asia.

Shortly after Trump’s election, one of his first acts was to break with diplomatic protocol and accept a congratulatory phone call with the pro-independence Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. This move sent the Chinese Politburo into a rage not seen since before the Nixon Administration. It was a glorious thing to behold.

In taking that call, Trump opened up for question whether the United States will maintain the status quo in the Sino-American relationship. When people talk of  “stability” in this context what they really mean is that America should be bound to accept the so-called “One-China Policy.”

The One-China Policy was a strategic formulation embraced by the Carter Administration. In order to keep China aligned with the West during the heady days of the Cold War, U.S. policymakers placated China by no longer recognizing Taiwan’s government. The government of Taiwan was run by the Chinese nationalists of the Guomindang Party. This was the same group who had lost China in the civil war with the Communists led by Mao Tse-tung. At the end of the civil war, the Guomindang escaped across the Taiwan Strait and established themselves on Taiwan. They claimed to be the legitimate government of China-in-exile. The United States recognized them as such until the Carter Administration.

As former Nixon aide Bruce Herschensohn wrote in his 2006 book, Taiwan: The Threatened Democracy, Jimmy Carter wanted to solidify the ties that Nixon had first formed with China. Thus, President Carter recognized the Communist government in Beijing as the official government of China. Under this approach, while the United States would not allow for Taiwan to be forcibly reintegrated with the mainland, it would also no longer recognize Taiwan as a fully sovereign state. This reality has persisted for decades. With Trump, many believed the paradigm would return to the pre-Carter assumptions.

The Chinese stratagem of slowly eroding one’s adversary was already underway by the time the Carter Administration consented to Chinese demands over Taiwan. Taiwan was China’s ultimate prize. For years, the United States had considered Taiwan to be, in the words of General Douglas MacArthur “America’s unsinkable aircraft carrier.” Taiwan was a constant thorn in China’s side. It left the mainland vulnerable. The Chinese government was going to do whatever it took to regain control over this rebellious land. To the Chinese, Taiwan was nothing more than a breakaway province. Indeed, most Chinese leaders will tell Westerners that they view Taiwan as Abraham Lincoln viewed the American South: rebels who needed to be brought to heel.

But this is not the American Civil War. What’s more, unlike the Confederate States of America, the Taiwanese government is not seeking to protect an oligarchic economy predicated on chattel slavery. Taiwan is a liberal capitalist democracy that has been bullied and threatened by larger and more violent neighbors (not unlike Israel). Taiwain is, as Herschensohn accurately called the island, “the threatened democracy.”

Even in spite of recognizing China’s Communist Party as the only government of China, America has maintained its close military alliance with Taiwan. Indeed, in 1996, the United States rushed aircraft carriers to Taiwan’s defense when China seemed poised to strike militarily against Taiwan. In 1996, China was upset that Taiwan was slated to elect its most pro-independence government in years, so they decided to try and push the Taiwanese away from the pro-independence movement through a show of force. The Clinton Administration intervened to protect Taiwan’s democratic freedoms. This move infuriated the Chinese and set them down the path of intense resistance toward America’s regional hegemony.

Although the United States has a multitude of shared economic interests with China, those interests have declined over the last decade. Further, as I have noted, the Chinese likely have been using Free Trade as a weapon against the United States at least for the last 30 years. Even now, as America’s economic relationship with China has naturally changed, America’s military alliance and democratic bond with Taiwan remains as strong as it ever has been.

Also, China’s economy has been contracting since the 2008 Great Recession. This, coupled with the decline in demand from the emerging markets, has exacerbated their economic decline. While China’s economy may be far away from actual collapse, the fact is that they are not the economic behemoth they once were. Indeed, as their economy has rapidly modernized, they are now at a point where they must make the pivot from a developing, predominantly manufacturing economy to a modern one (or so the Chinese leadership believes). As they try to make this turn, there will be a great many dislocations that will serve to encourage the coming collapse of the Chinese Communist Party.

This reality will increase the instability of the Asia-Pacific. Right now, the Chinese military has been on a ceaseless modernization program. They have intensified their power both at home and are expanding their reach globally. Now, the Chinese have laid claim to several disputed sections of the South China Sea, they have established unlawful Air Defense Identification Zones, they have challenged U.S. forces operating in the region, and they seem poised to do much more than that. In the event of instability at home, President Trump should expect China to lash out aggressively abroad.

Chinese society itself is a cauldron of disunion in spite of the misleadingly placid appearance that the CCP presents to the outside world. Indeed, things have gotten so bad in the country that China’s current leader, Xi Jinping, has embarked upon the greatest power grab since Mao. The logic is simple: intensify the central government’s hold on power in order to curb any separatist sentiment from China’s outlying provinces. This has been a theme repeated throughout China’s history of dynastic decline. But, as Chinese history has proven, the tighter a central government squeezes its power, the more power it actually loses.

All of these factors will continue to compound until China acts out violently against the United States and its allies in the region. This eventuality means the Trump Administration must stop placating China. It only empowers them and weakens us. The United States needs to intensify its pivot to Asia, if it is to contain any violent outburst by China. What’s more, we should recognize Taiwan as a fully independent state and reaffirm our commitment to defend Taiwanese sovereignty.

All of this talk of reaffirming the One-China Policy, therefore, is ill-advised. President Trump must recognize that trying to get better deals with China is irrelevant compared to the geostrategic implications of America simply abandoning Taiwan. Only through consistent resistance to Chinese revanchism and economic manipulation can the America better protect its interests in Asia (and beyond) in the long run.

Fact is, China is not interested in making a better deal. Beijing wants to push America out of Asia and reassert its ancient place as the dominant actor there. Once China secures Taiwan, it will be able to threaten Japan’s southern flank and push into the waters around the Philippines. The existence of a China-friendly leader in the Philippines would only further complicate U.S. grand strategy for the region. Also, as the Chinese made inroads expanding their reach beyond Taiwan, there is little doubt that they would then have the capacity and reach to threaten American territories in Guam and Hawaii.

This is inimical to our interests and must be prevented at all costs. Resolve in the face of Chinese irredentism is the Trump Administration’s only hope for securing U.S. interests. Let us hope this fact is never forgotten.

 

China • Defense of the West • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Middle East • Religion of Peace • Russia • Terrorism • The ME Agenda

Understanding Russia’s Role in Afghanistan

The United States can make a strong and persuasive case to the Russians that they should cease their ongoing support for the Taliban.

Recently, I argued the United States should use India as leverage to pressure Pakistan into abandoning its support of the Taliban (and other jihadist groups) in Afghanistan. In so doing, I believe, the United States finally would be able to formulate a political solution that would allow a majority of American forces to return home with a victory under their belts. Naturally, however, there is a major potential complication to this plan: Russia. What else is new, comrades?

Yes, Russia is, yet again, inserting itself into a wholly American affair. Since 2008, the Russians have been ratcheting up their support of the Taliban. Consequently, a concert of powers now back the Taliban, even as American troops continue to fight and die the jihadist army that had controlled large swaths of Afghanistan prior to the U.S. invasion in 2001. Understand that while Pakistan is the largest (as well as the closest) foreign power supporting the Taliban, both China and Russia have interests in seeing the Taliban prosper in its ongoing war with the United States. Iran does, too.

With Russia supporting the Taliban, the United States will have a higher degree of difficulty coaxing the Pakistanis to assist us in defeating the Taliban. Russia has been a vital component to the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. Since 2001, Russia has provided the United States with diplomatic assistance in opening and maintaining the vital supply lines running into and out of Afghanistan.

After all, Afghanistan is in Russia’s neighborhood. With the exception of Pakistan, most of the surrounding Central Asian states are beholden to Russia in some way. Still, it remains shocking that the Russians are assisting the Taliban in any way. Remember, that the Taliban are the heirs to the Mujahadeen who roundly defeated Soviet forces during the Soviet-Afghan War.

While Russian support for the Taliban is an unwanted complication, it is not an insurmountable obstacle. The Trump Administration should use Russia to its advantage in seeking to extricate the United States from this costly and lengthy war.

The first thing America must do is to recognize what Russia wants. For starters, ISIS presents a grave danger to Russia’s national security. President Putin has little faith in the Afghan government’s ability to counter the rise of ISIS in the country. Putin is also concerned that the United States is so busy trying to extricate itself from Afghanistan that it is not taking the ISIS threat seriously. Therefore, the Russians are using any means to prevent the small ISIS presence in Afghanistan from growing beyond where it is today.

After all, Russia has a large and growing Muslim population. Afghanistan is right on Russia’s southern border. With Russia so closely aligned with Assad in Syria, the last thing that Vladimir Putin wants is to have ISIS operating right next door. The United States should signal to Russia that it will take seriously the threat that ISIS poses in Afghanistan and work to destroy them there, so long as the Russians assist the United States in its larger goal of defeating the Taliban.

It is also likely that Vladimir Putin wants to embarrass the United States in much the same way that he believes the United States embarrassed Russia during the Soviet Union’s war in Afghanistan. Even so, that is but an ancillary benefit for the Russians. What is more likely is that, from a geopolitical perspective, the Russians are looking to push American forces out of what it perceives as its sphere of influence. In this, there are complementary American and Russian interests.

I think it’s safe to say that a majority of Americans want a successful end to the War in Afghanistan. And, while I believe that a small contingent of U.S. counter-terrorism forces will have to remain in Afghanistan for decades to come, leaving a massive military force permanently engaged in combat operations against the Taliban is simply untenable. President Trump being a populist who has routinely questioned the strategy in both Iraq and Afghanistan, likely shares this interest in ending the War in Afghanistan soon. As you can see, then, the Russian and American leadership have mutual interests in this area of the world.

The Trump Administration must communicate to the Russians that it will not abide the perpetuation of the Taliban. Pakistan has been relentless in its support for Taliban, in large part because they view Afghanistan as offering them strategic depth in Pakistan’s ongoing conflict with India. This is why I believe that the United States getting closer to India would persuade the Pakistanis to abandon the Taliban. Ultimately, an Indo-American alliance would empower Pakistan’s mortal enemy of India and isolate Pakistan. Thus, the Pakistanis would have a vested interest in seeing America leave as quickly as possible. Yet, the presence of Russia means that Pakistan may try to get closer with Russia—in order to protect their Taliban allies, to check India’s growing power on the subcontinent, and to rebuff American influence in the region.

President Trump’s national security team will have to communicate to the Russians that if they want America mostly out of their part of the world, then, the Russians must not fall for the Pakistani trap. They must not allow their desire to humiliate the United States by empowering the Pakistani-Taliban alliance to get the better of Russian grand strategy.

Moreover, the Russians should realize that, if they are serious about destroying the Islamic State in Afghanistan, they should not align with the leading jihadist-supporting state (Pakistan) in the region. Further, the Russians should understand that the Taliban may not be as serious about fighting the small ISIS presence in the country as the Russians assume. Indeed, a Taliban spokesman recently reiterated that the Taliban and ISIS in Afghanistan have formed an informal alliance against the West. Thus, any support that Russia is rendering to Taliban may, in fact, be inadvertently helping ISIS.

Not long ago, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, U.S. Army General John Nicholson, gave an impassioned testimony to Congress elaborating his belief that America was in an endless stalemate with the Taliban. Therefore, he called for another troop surge into Afghanistan, in order to break the stalemate. The Trump team should embrace this strategy—so long as it is serious about pushing Pakistan to abandon the Taliban by empowering India. As the troop surge commences (alongside an intensification of Indo-American relations), the U.S. must bluntly tell the Russians that American forces will not leave Afghanistan until we are assured that the Taliban are neutralized.

The increase in U.S. forces will signal to Russia that any attempt at supporting Pakistan against the United States will further distance Russia from its ultimate goal of getting America out of Russia’s sphere of interest. America must recognize that President Putin’s desire to prolong American suffering is strong. The temptation to bring an old U.S. partner like Pakistan closer to Russia’s orbit would be an enchanting opportunity for Putin as well (just look at what Putin is doing in Egypt). Yet, Putin’s big dream of firmly rehabilitating Russian influence in the former Soviet space will only be complicated by increased Russian presence in Afghanistan. Simply put, America will not leave until it knows the Taliban is dead-and-gone.

President Trump must enter Afghanistan with his eyes wide open: Pakistan is disinterested in resolving the War in Afghanistan. They will do whatever they have to in order to keep the Taliban open for business. Since India is the strategic linchpin in this scenario, the Pakistanis will be looking for new allies. Russia is an obvious choice for them. Therefore, the Trump Administration must move swiftly to seriously diminish the attractiveness of Pakistan to Russia.

Indeed, this wouldn’t be the first time that Pakistan attempted to play a rival great power off of the United States. During the historic Bin Laden raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan in 2011, one of the two covert stealth helicopters that the Navy SEALs used crashed over Bin Laden’s compound. While the SEALs attempted to destroy the helicopter wreckage, a section of the tail survived. The Pakistanis collected this component and handed it off to the Chinese. In fact, since 2009, Sino-Pakistani relations have reached a crescendo as U.S.-Pakistani relations have soured. This is no accident. The Pakistani leadership is keenly aware that the United States is growing disenchanted with them and is looking for ways at prompting the Pakistanis to serve American interests. Such interests, the Pakistanis believe, are inimical to their national interests.

Playing Russia off of America in Afghanistan would be yet another extension of this Pakistani stratagem.

The only way to diminish Pakistan in Putin’s eyes is to rapidly increase the size of U.S. forces operating in Afghanistan and to give them expanded mission parameters. Putin will quickly back away from supporting Pakistan. He might even back Trump’s play in the region. If he doesn’t, then the Trump Administration will continue America’s policy of war against the jihadist networks operating in Afghanistan. We will empower the Indians, and the U.S. diplomatic strategy should then be able to look for ways at undermining Russian influence in the region.

One way or the other, the United States under President Trump will win the War in Afghanistan. It’s just a question of how much both the Taliban and Pakistan want it to hurt. What’s more, it’s also a question of how much Russia wants to risk in the interregnum between now and America’s ultimate victory in Afghanistan. America is never going to remove Russian influence from Central Asia. Geography prevents this from happening.

So, the real calculation for Putin would be how badly he wants supreme influence over this region in the near term. He can get it quite cheaply if he ignores Pakistani attempts at pulling Russia into its orbit (and maybe even helps the United States force Pakistan into abandoning the Taliban). Or he can get it with far more damage to Russian diplomatic capital and prestige if he forces the United States to remain engaged indefinitely in Afghanistan.

2016 Election • America • China • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Russia

The Case for Space Dominance

For nearly two weeks in 480 B.C., a massive Persian army numbering as many as 300,000 troops was prevented from invading Greece by a small band of dedicated Greek warriors, heroically led by the Spartan King Leonidas at the Battle of Thermopylae. Despite being numerically superior, the Persian force was hemmed in by unfavorable geography (which the Spartans used decisively to their advantage) and were therefore unable to dislodge the Greek defenders from August 20 until September 10 of that year. That is, until a Persian force managed to make it to higher ground and rain down death upon the Greek defenders.

The capture of the high ground was the coup de grace that the Persians needed to defeat the tiny, but unflappable contingent of Greek defenders at Thermopylae. Since the dawn of history, the military force that came to dominate the strategic high ground usually won the battle. Today, space is the ultimate strategic high ground. As such, he who controls the strategic high ground of space controls the world.

Right now, the United States controls space. But rivals such as China and Russia are attempting to change that reality. They are now closer to achieving this goal than at any other point in history.

The American military is currently the dominant force on the planet. Why? Because the United States dominates the strategic high ground. First, America came to dominate the air. Then, with the advent of space travel, the U.S. military came to dominate space—the ultimate high ground.

Today, the U.S. military is the smallest it has been in decades at a time when it is being challenged by more diverse threats globally than it ever has. This is an untenable situation, especially in the face of growing challenges from increasingly competent forces in Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. Space is the linchpin to America’s global dominance.

Despite this fact, space is the one strategic area that has largely been ignored by American policymakers—and our enemies know this. With the advent of the Trump Administration, the U.S. military needs to reassert its unequivocal command of the strategic high ground by embracing space dominance as its preferred strategy in that domain.

Space dominance calls for the complete weaponization of space coupled with the willingness to aggressively use space forces to ensure America’s continued supremacy on land and in the sea and air. The strategy not only calls for American forces to be so overwhelmingly powerful in space that they can prevent other powers gaining access, but also insists that U.S. forces be able to exert their will from space as well. It is a hegemonic policy.

Most Americans are totally unaware of just how dependent we are on space for military and civilian operations alike. Satellites make it possible, for instance, for our forces on the Korean Peninsula to operate effectively by linking these far-off forces with their combatant commands thousands of miles away. Satellites made possible the 2011 raid in Pakistan that killed Osama Bin Laden. Satellites also make it possible for you to go to your local ATM and pull out some money.

The signals that we all rely on are relayed through space using satellites. These satellites are all vulnerable to disruption and attack from the ground. What’s more, rival states, such as Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea are all keenly aware that they cannot challenge the American military directly without removing its ability to act as one, cohesive entity. By eliminating America’s satellites in orbit, rivals like China seek to prevent our forces from coordinating an effective defense of, say, Taiwan. Russia would hope to delink NATO’s abilities to muster an effective defense of Ukraine.

Also, given how dependent our society is on civilian satellites, rivals would seek to debilitate non-military satellites, so as to sow confusion and discord at home. States like Russia and China believe that such confusion on America’s home front would give them a freer hand to attack their neighbors. American rivals believe that if they remove the capacity for American civil society to function normally, then America would demur from responding adequately to aggression abroad in order to restore peace and stability at home. To some extent, these adversaries might be correct.

But our national security space policy incorporates more than just satellites.

Rogue states such as North Korea and Iran are believed to possess rudimentary nuclear arsenals and are rapidly working on ways of expanding their capabilities. These states have expressed their hostility to the United States and its allies. What’s more, these states have been pernicious state sponsors of global terror and criminality. Former CIA Director James Woolsey wrote an op-ed earlier this year positing his suspicion with nascent nuclear capabilities coupled with a drive to launch satellites in orbit, the North Koreans might be attempting to place Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) devices in orbit.

Earlier this year, the North Koreans managed to place a satellite in orbit that most observers believe to be unorthodox—in that it’s not behaving as most communications or traditional military satellites would. Yet, it remains in a controlled orbit. An EMP device detonated high enough above the continental United States could wipe out all advanced technology instantly, reducing America to an 18th century-level of development and potentially killing 90 percent of the population within two years.

Meanwhile, the Iranians are poised to acquire nuclear arms. Wedded to an apocalyptic worldview of Shia Islam and espousing hateful rhetoric about their neighbors—Sunni Arabs and Jews alike—what’s stopping the Iranians from launching a devastating attack on allied states (many of whom have significant numbers of Americans living on military bases)? What do we do about these threats?

We’ve tried negotiation. In both cases it only induces these rogues toward greater levels of aggression. Do we invade? Imagine the Iraq War but with our people facing nuclear reprisals. Launch airstrikes? Most believe that striking either country from the air would be ineffective.

The solution is for the United States to weaponize space. We must develop methods to better protect our critical assets in orbit. Building smaller, cheaper, and more easily replaceable satellites is a good start. Placing a true space-based missile defense system in orbit would also mitigate the threat from rogue states. What’s more, fielding non-nuclear offensive weapons in orbit—such as large tungsten rods (or, “Rods From God,” as the military dubs them)—will be essential in deterring future aggression from our strategic rivals.

For several years, America’s space capabilities have been allowed to wither on the vine at the same time that it has increased its reliance on space technology for even the most basic societal functions. The arrival of the Trump Administration is heralding historic reappraisals in U.S. foreign policy. National security space policy deserves to be reassessed as well. Russia has committed itself to fielding space weapons. China is currently developing methods to debilitate U.S. satellites. Both North Korea and Iran are seeking to upend global stability with nuclear arms. Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to ignore space at its own peril.

The world is less safe and America’s military is more vulnerable to strategic defeat than at any other time. There has rarely been a situation in history where a force that didn’t command the strategic high ground won any war. Space is the ultimate strategic high ground. Therefore, the United States must dominate it at all costs. The Trump Administration must embrace the space dominance model if the U.S. is to retain its global hegemony.

America • China • Conservatives • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Trade • Trump White House

The Art of Economic Warfare (Part 3): Audacity! Audacity! Audacity!

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Listening to Donald Trump’s remarkable “thank you” speech on December 1 in Indiana, I was struck by how well-honed the president-elect’s worldview seems to be—particularly in relation to economic statecraft. During that speech, Trump elucidated why and how America would conduct its trade deals.

Trump’s recent pre-presidential victory in preventing the Carrier Corporation from uprooting in Indiana and moving shop down to Mexico was an excellent case in point. Using a combination of economic carrots and sticks to entice the firm to remain in place, Trump achieved what everyone from Jeb(!) Bush to Barack Obama said was impossible.

Why, apart from his pledge to keep American jobs in America, did Trump do this?

He did it because he understands that the loss of the factory would not be just a sad day for Hoosiers. It would represent more irreparable harm to America’s ailing working class—the very backbone of America’s economic and, therefore, military might. The continued losses of this group of people do a strategic disservice to the United States.

Trump rightly recognizes the strategic implications of America losing its manufacturing capabilities. After all, it was manufacturing that helped to win the Second World War. While America likely will never return to that level of manufacturing output, or to that level of mechanical competence among average Americans, the fact is that much of our potential in these areas has been squandered not simply because there were more lucrative alternatives, but also because American leaders have demonstrated a lack of strategic foresight.

While many of the more dogmatic free trade purists decry what they call Trump’s “crony capitalism,” I think they are missing something. Indeed, as Trump critic Greg Weiner argues, capitalism is best characterized by “decentralized economic decisions.” Crony capitalism is most often understood to be the union of interests between the state and certain private industries. Essentially, it is the centralization of economic decisions. As such, there is some question as to whether one can even use the term “capitalism” after the term “crony.”

The term “crony capitalism,” therefore, is just a bastardization of what capitalism really is (which is why the Left loves using the it). Indeed, a more apt term for “crony capitalism” would be either “corporatism” or “mercantilism.”

But this is not what was at work in the Carrier deal. The Carrier deal, instead, shows how Trump will enact his economic statecraft policy. For those companies already here, Trump is signaling—through persuasion—that he will do what it takes to keep them in place. He goes to them to find out what is necessary to achieve that and he offers what he can. He also promises to enact penalties where he can, of course. But Trump is limited here by the Constitution and by political reality. Still, companies may be uncertain about his limits. If they seek to err on the side of caution in ways that help American workers, so be it. That’s smart politics.

Once in office, he will seek to lower taxes and reduce regulations, which—in addition to keeping companies here—will also entice more businesses to open up shop in the America. This influx of entrepreneurial activity will increase America’s strategic capital on the international stage. While it may be heresy to the Free Trade purists over at Cato and the crony “capitalists” in the Democratic Party, Trump’s economic warfare doctrine seems to be predicated upon making America so economically strong, and so attractive for businesses, that no other country could ever use economics as a cudgel against the United States again and no sensible American company would want to relocate.

Gonzo geopolitical analyst Edward Luttwak recently observed this shift to economic warfare, or resisting China’s rise through geoeconomics in his most recent book on Chinese grand strategy, The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy. As Luttwak writes:

China’s continuing rise ultimately threatens the very independence of its neighbors, and even of its present peers, it will inevitably be resisted by geoeconomic means—that is, by strategically motivated as opposed to merely protectionist trade barriers, investment prohibitions, more extensive technology denials, and even restrictions on raw material exports to China if its misconduct can provide a sufficient excuse for that almost warlike act.

Trump has recognized repeatedly the threat that China’s aggressive economic posture poses to American national security. His recent phone call with the Taiwanese president highlights the ways in which he intends to put pressure on China and to slough off our own supine neglect of our interests.

Trump’s economic counterattack against America’s true rival, China, is just beginning. This, coupled with his threats vis-à-vis tariffs on incoming Chinese goods (lest they operate more fairly in the economic realm) is nothing less than audacious. It is a Patton-esque strategy for winning the ongoing economic war with China. Trump is very Chinese in his view on grand strategy.

True statecraft is not limited to the use of the military or traditional diplomacy only. It also involves economics. An offensive, audacious, economic warfare strategy is therefore needed to protect America’s interests globally. Donald Trump will take a page out of China’s book and use it against them. In Trump, the successful Art of Economic Warfare will be on display. As such, we will not only be safer, but also far more prosperous.

China • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Trade • Trump White House • Uncategorized

Gordon Chang on Why The Taiwan Call Is a Good Thing

indexChris and I were joined on our radio program Tuesday by Gordon Chang, author of The Coming Collapse of China and Nuclear Showdown:  North Korea Takes on the World to discuss the probable signals president-elect Donald Trump is sending in taking that now famous call from Taiwan’s President, Tsai Ing-wen.

Chang makes the case with us, and in his piece that appeared in the Daily Beast, that Trump appears to recognize America’s policy toward China—especially during the  last two administrations—has not been working and it is time, not merely for a reset, but for putting our relations with that nation on an entirely new footing. China’s increasingly hostile and bold manuevers with respect to the United States have been met with meek and reactive attempts to make nice and be cooperative while ignoring China’s aggressive posture. Trump’s refusal to be cowed and, to test China instead of waiting for them to test him, may be exactly the kind of first steps needed to stabilize East Asia.

https://soundcloud.com/thesethandchrisshow/december-6-2016-gordon-chang

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America • China • Defense of the West • Foreign Policy • Trade • Trump White House

The Art of Economic Warfare (Part 2): Maintaining America’s War Footing and Seeking the National Interest

Sherman_Rhino_Normandy_1944When Donald Trump won the White House last month, his victory represented more than the usual handing off of power from Democrats to Republicans. It was a total reworking of the political order. One of Trump’s consistent themes has been economic nationalism. Since the 1980s, Trump has always questioned the conventional wisdom of globalization as a force for good. Trump has pointed out a critical flaw in America’s grand strategy.

Thirty years ago, Trump argued that America was being taken advantage of by the likes of Japan. By the mid-1990s, however, worries over a resurgent Japan faded as that country fell into a long-term recession. Today, China’s meteoric rise as well as Mexico’s and a litany of other countries prospering through the use of so-called “free trade” practices in their deals with the United States, have many Americans skeptical about the benefits accrued to us from these deals.

Trouble is, as American think tankers, bankers, and politicians all congratulated themselves over their various free-trade agreements, China and other rivals were laughing as they acquired more and more American assets.

Trump, more than any American political or military leader, has rightly assessed that far from being ancillary to a country’s foreign policy, a country’s economic policy is integral to its conduct in foreign affairs. That is why Trump’s rhetoric opposing increased trade with China is so important. For almost 20 years, the Chinese have been using their economic potential—and the promise of great profit to China—to weaken America strategically.

The Chinese lure advanced American corporations over to their country, which then guts America’s economic potential, as jobs and opportunities are forever lost (after all, how can any American worker compete with a worker in China who can get paid almost nothing for doing twice the work?) Meanwhile, the Chinese Communist Party is empowered, as the Chinese people achieve unprecedented wealth and their country’s economy is rapidly modernized. In America, however, things slow down and America’s productive might is mollified.

Such zero-sum thinking may seem anathema to many dogmatic free traders. Unfortunately for them, this is exactly how the Chinese view economic policy (as do many other nations, including some of America’s allies). We may be thankful, however, it is appears to be how Trump views economic policy. Indeed, his is the first administration in some time to move toward a holistic doctrine of national defense that includes an economic component. In other words, Trump seems to understand that we need an economic policy that will place America (for the first time in years) on the offensive against its foreign rivals, by using all methods of state power to better protect the American economy while expanding prosperity for Americans. Despite what detractors say, this is a good thing—not only for our economy, but also for our national defense.

This gutting of America’s Working Class has also led to a cultural malaise, particularly among America’s men. One need look no further than Hanna Rosin’s obscene book, The End of Men for evidence of the problem. Everything from the wussification of men in our society to transgendered bathrooms are physical manifestations of this ceaseless assault on our nation’s character, through “free trade.”

Remember Stephen E. Ambrose’s book, Citizen Soldiers, and the tale of the young American G.I.’s during D-Day who ingeniously devised a way to cut through the Nazi hedgerows that were blocking the American advance up the beach? Had it not been for those young G.I.’s and their experience of working as welders—but even more important, their audacity and willingness to take charge and take risks—who knows how many American lives would have been lost.

In a random sampling of 10 American men from the ages of 18-24, how many do you suppose would have experience in welding or similar skill sets today? God forbid the U.S. found itself in a shooting war with the 2.3 million man Chinese military (many of whom are conscripts from the impoverished inner part of China). Do you think we have enough of the kind of men we would need to effectively challenge the Chinese (particularly if the Chinese neutered our technological advantages)? Sure, we need programmers and engineers.We always have needed those highly skilled kinds of workers and we always will. But it is foolhardy to imagine that we no longer need the kinds of men that can only be produced through the Blue Collared experience. With that way of life so readily shrugged off and sacrificed by those who do not understand it—all in the name of “globalism” and “efficiency”—one has to wonder how much longer America can retain its martial prowess.

Just look at the wars that America is fighting today. Despite the newfangled technology involved (and some of the stuff is really awesome), the wars of today are not unlike the wars of yesteryear. The Global War on Terror is fought almost exclusively on the ground. The men who serve in the Marine Corps and U.S. Army infantry are far more efficient and lethal when honoring a working class ethos of strength (the very ethos that draws sneers from most coastal elites) than they would be replacing that ethos with social justice experimentation.

I mean, how many hipster baristas could kick down Bin Laden’s door?

Rather than serving as a force for democratic liberation and increasing American prosperity, America’s unquestioning devotion to policies labeled “free trade” have sapped America of its economic potential as well as its martial ethos. Slowly, prosperity has been drained and Americans, once among the least class conscious of peoples, have become bifurcated. As Angelo Codevilla outlined in his book, The Ruling Class, we now live in a society where the distinctions between the cosmopolitan coastal elites (the ruling class) and the disenfranchised, rural poor (the country class) are apparent to all but those wearing ideological blinders. This not only has harmed most Americans, it has also created strategic weaknesses for rivals like China to exploit (and boy, have they exploited them!).

Why should the U.S. shrug when China uses their economy as a weapon to do far more damage to America’s strength in peacetime than their military could ever hope to do in war? Donald Trump’s experience and sense about what American priorities ought to be promises to  reinvigorate America’s economy and to turn our attention, once again, to a grand strategy for America encompassing more than just a narrow defensive posture—one that recognizes the necessity of an economic warfare doctrine if we are to go on and maintain the offensive. No more bad deals. No more selling out Americans. Once again Americans will seek to answer the question, “What’s in our national interest?” It’s about time!

America • China • Donald Trump • Trade • Trump White House

The Art of Economic Warfare: China Gains the Upper Hand by Playing a Different Game

Since the end of the Cold War, the world has witnessed a blurring of lines that were once seen as separate and distinct. Today, civilians and enemy combatants are virtually indistinguishable. Everything that can be weaponized has been—from jet airliners to your personal computer. “National security” and “economics” are no longer separate policy arenas. They now overlap.

The Chinese were among the first states to recognize this trend and capitalize on it. Many other American trading partners did as well. Yet, American leaders—either through ignorance or through stubborn indifference—failed to see this happening.

For 20 years or more, “We, The People,” have paid the price for our leaders’ ignorance and indifference.

The concept of economic statecraft, as Benn Steil and Robert E. Litan outline in Financial Statecraft: The Role of Financial Markets in American Foreign Policy, “encompasses efforts by governments to influence other actors in the international system, relying primarily on resources that have ‘a reasonable semblance of a market price in terms of money.’” Economic statecraft has been a vital tool in the conduct of foreign policy for most states since the beginning of time. Indeed, until the end of the Cold War, it was a fundamental component of American grand strategy. Since the end of the Cold War, however, America’s ability to conduct economic statecraft has eroded. Even worse, as America separated its security and economic policies, states like China fused them together.

In 1996, just as Taiwan was set to elect its most pro-independence government in decades, the Chinese decided to use military brinksmanship in order to dissuade them from independence. China fired several missile volleys across the Taiwan Strait in a blatant attempt to intimidate what former Nixon aide Bruce Herschensohn dubbed the “threatened democracy.”

It didn’t work. Not only did Taiwan’s elections go on as planned, the Clinton Administration—in a rare instance of demonstrating military resolve—sailed two aircraft carrier battle groups through the Strait, in order to affirm America’s continued support of the fledgling democracy.

Following America’s decisive show of force, the Chinese immediately stood down. But they did not forget—or forgive—the humiliating American military maneuvers in the very thin strip of water separating Mainland China from Taiwan. During and after the Taiwan Strait Crisis, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) conducted a series of military drills in which they gamed out what a war with the United States over Taiwan would look like. Needless to say, the results were quite disheartening for the standing members of China’s Politburo. Realizing that no amount of military modernization would turn the PLA into an equal rival of the United States’ military, the Chinese began seeking alternative forms of resistance.

During the 1996 exercises, two PLA colonels, Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, compiled their thoughts on alternative strategies for defeating the United States outside of a military-to-military conflict. Their book, Unrestricted Warfare, was the apotheosis of that undertaking. Since its publication in 1998, Unrestricted Warfare has become a foundational text of Chinese grand strategy. This book (which is based largely on Sun Tzu’s concepts of deception in war) outlines key areas where China could debilitate the United States on the strategic level. These methods of asymmetrical warfare represent the blurring together of previously thought separate, non-military areas, into one, seamless concept of total warfare.

Terrorism, cyber warfare, and, yes, economic warfare are all key components of China’s asymmetric approach. Look at the last 20 years of economic dealings between the United States and the People’s Republic of China. It should be obvious that China has waged unremitting warfare against the very backbone of America’s military strength: our economy.

Over the last two decades, China has become the largest economy in terms of its purchasing power parity. In terms of GDP, China has displaced Japan as the second-largest economy in the world and is set to displace America as the largest economy in the near-future. The United States imports significantly more of its goods from China, which has created a trade imbalance, in everything other than financial services (go figure). U.S. manufacturing capabilities have been seriously degraded. Meanwhile, China’s manufacturing capacity has surged ahead. This has allowed the Chinese to mass-produce weapons systems that will eventually challenge the technologically superior, but numerically inferior U.S. forces in the Asia-Pacific.

Just look at Detroit, the once-mighty hub of American manufacturing and compare it to, say, Guangzhou. Yes, Guangzhou is a smoggy, overpopulated city in southeastern China. But, unlike Detroit today, Guangzhou is also one of the most prosperous manufacturing hubs, not just in China, but also in the world. Although I hate parroting Thomas Friedman and Michael E. Mandelbaum, they are right: that used to be us! But the reason it isn’t us any longer is due to  the mindless globalization policies advanced past two decades by the likes of Friedman and Mandelbaum!

China has rightly assessed that economics, like all other avenues of human life, has a strategic value. The Chinese  have honed their economic statecraft and married it to their overall revanchist goals in the Asia-Pacific. Even as they do this, even as they violate U.S. copyright laws, dispossess Americans of economic opportunity, and continue to damage the U.S. national interest, how have we responded? With the Trans-Pacific Partnership! A deal that was purportedly aimed at stunting China’s influence in the Asia-Pacific, by surrendering more of America’s sovereignty to even more Developing States (who disproportionately benefit from the deal)! Some deal.

Free trade dogmatism is mistaken: economics is not always a positive-sum game—at least not when it comes to international affairs. States such as China have proven that economics is yet another domain where the nation-state can and will compete for strategic advantage over other states. Donald Trump is the first U.S. leader in a very long time to realize this fact. He has begun tailoring a foreign policy that effectively synthesizes the all-powerful traditional forms of statecraft (i.e., military power) with the much-ballyhooed, yet little-understood tools of nonviolent statecraft (of which, there are many). In much the same way that China has combined all of the available tools of statecraft to create a cogent and productive foreign policy, so will Trump begin the important work of reminding Americans of the many and long-neglected tools of statecraft.

American Conservatism • China • Conservatives • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Great Reads • Greatness Agenda • Immigration • Trump White House

Great Reads for Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016

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Back by popular demand, “Great Reads” henceforth will appear on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Forty-four days until the inauguration.

Only on American Greatness: Julie Ponzi lauds Anthony Esolen’s fight against the “cult of diversity” at Providence College.

Senior editor Seth Leibsohn praises Phoenix Suns Coach Earl Watson’s excellent example in the fight against drugs: “This is how coaches should talk.”

American Greatness Publisher Chris Buskirk argued in The Hill on Monday that President-elect Trump’s call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen was very much in America’s interest.

Top up your coffee or pour yourself a glass of something a little stronger, sit back, and get ready for today’s great reads . . .

On America-First Foreign Policy

Speaking of China, our chattering classes are trying to figure out whether the president-elect is crazy or stupid. (Does it have to be either-or? Could it be “neither”?)

The Washington Post reports: “Donald Trump’s protocol-breaking telephone call with Taiwan’s leader was an intentionally provocative move that establishes the incoming president as a break with the past, according to interviews with people involved in the planning.”

Turns out, China flew some “nuclear-capable” bombers around the island just ahead of the call, according to NBC News.

The Commentary guys are vexed.  “The Trump administration is winging it,” writes Noah Rothman.

Protocol-schmotocol. Marc A. Thiessen, who was no Trump supporter during the election, has a pretty level-headed take in the Washington Post:

Trump knew precisely what he was doing in taking the call. He was serving notice on Beijing that it is dealing with a different kind of president — an outsider who will not be encumbered by the same Lilliputian diplomatic threads that tied down previous administrations. The message, as John Bolton correctly put it, was that ‘the president of the United States [will] talk to whomever he wants if he thinks it’s in the interest of the United States, and nobody in Beijing gets to dictate who we talk to.’”
. . .
And if that message was lost on Beijing, Trump underscored it on Sunday, tweeting: “Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency (making it hard for our companies to compete), heavily tax our products going into their country (the U.S. doesn’t tax them) or to build a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea? I don’t think so!” He does not need Beijing’s permission to speak to anyone. No more kowtowing in a Trump administration.

Geopolitical Futures’ George Friedman says the game is altered: “By making the call Trump signaled to China that he is prepared to act unilaterally if the Chinese are not prepared to renegotiate the relationship, and everything is on the table. Trump selected a high-visibility, low-content issue – Taiwan – to demonstrate his indifference to prior understandings. Critics say Trump attacked the foundations of U.S.-Chinese relations. It’s true in a way, but Trump had pledged to change the foundations of that relationship.”

Michael Auslin of the American Enterprise Institute writes, “[t]he ambiguity surrounding Taiwan’s international position cannot last forever. Yet while the moral case for supporting Taiwan has never been stronger, a precipitous challenge to the decades-long status quo has enormous risks the farther down the road it goes. America needs to show it can play a long game in Asia, too, and Trump should figure out a way to gradually increase support for Taiwan without causing a reaction that might make such a policy impossible to achieve.”

Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) also argues at The Hill that “it takes a Trump to stand up to China.” 

“The President-elect’s phone call with President Tsai is a shot-across-the-bow that signals to Beijing that aggression in Asia will no longer be tolerated or rewarded,” Chabot writes. “The likely result will not be a spiral of costly conflict between the world’s two leading powers. Instead, the incoming administration is paving the way for an increasingly stable architecture of peace in the world’s wealthiest region.”

On Immigration and Border Security

My column at the Sacramento Bee last week addressed why California is wrong to defend sanctuary cities.

Well, the Los Angeles Times reports that California’s new legislative session began Monday with the message: “We’re ready to fight Trump.”  From the story:

Democratic leaders were harshly critical of Trump and sounded a combative tone in their opening comments, vowing to work aggressively as a “check” against the president-elect when his policies conflict with those adopted in California regarding the 3 million immigrants in the state illegally.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) called Trump’s agenda “cynical, short-sighted and reactionary” and criticized his appointments, saying that “white nationalists and anti-Semites have no business working in the White House.” He said California needs to strongly counter what is happening in Washington.

“Californians do not need healing. We need to fight,” Rendon told his colleagues.

If only California had an opposition party of its own.

Assembly GOP Leader Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley said he was saddened by the bellicosity of Rendon’s speech.

“Some of the rhetoric that I heard today, I felt like I was watching a speech from Trump, to be honest,” Mayes said. “It was fear mongering. There was demagoguery.”

Although the U.S. Constitution clearly makes immigration and naturalization policy the sole province of the federal government, California Democrats have introduced three bills they think will matter.

One would require a public vote on any border wall costing more than $1 billion. Which is cute.

Another would bar state agencies from “providing information to the federal government on a person’s religious affiliation if it is to be used for the purposes of compiling a database of individuals based solely on religious affiliation.”

The third is actually a retread of a bill Governor Jerry Brown vetoed this year. According to the Times, “The measure would prohibit local governments from contracting with private, for-profit companies to detain immigrants, and will require detention facilities to meet the minimum health and safety standards set by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

Meantime, immigration advocacy groups are asking California Attorney General Kamala Harris to block the feds from accessing a database containing names of gang members, Yvette Cabrera reports at the Voice of OC.  The fear is that Trump might accidentally want to deport some people on the list who might not really be gangbangers.

“Among other things,” Cabrera writes, “auditors found that in some cases law enforcement agencies put individuals in the database without adequate evidence, failed to purge CalGang records that had not been updated within five years, and poorly implemented a state law requiring that juveniles and their parents are notified before the minor is placed in the database.”

On Economic Nationalism

President-elect Trump tweeted over the weekend he thinks U.S. corporations that leave the country, build new factories abroad, put Americans out of work and then want to sell their products back to the country “without consequence” should face a 35 percent tariff. Naturally, that’s sparked a row on the right.

Jennifer Steinhauer: “House G.O.P. Signals Break With Trump Over Tariff Threat” (New York Times):

House Republican leaders signaled on Monday that they would not support President-elect Donald J. Trump’s threat to impose a heavy tax on companies that move jobs overseas, the first significant confrontation over the conservative economic orthodoxy that Mr. Trump relishes trampling.

“I don’t want to get into some kind of trade war,” Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and majority leader, told reporters in response to Mr. Trump’s threats over the weekend to seek a 35 percent import tariff on goods sold by United States companies that move jobs overseas and displace American workers.

Peter High: “Reasons Why The U.S. Will Dominate The World Economy For The Foreseeable Future” (Forbes

Andrew Ross Sorkin: “Want to Bring Back Jobs, Mr. President-Elect? Call Elon Musk” (New York Times): 

In the last decade, Mr. Musk has created nearly 35,000 jobs among his various enterprises — and most of those jobs are classic manufacturing ones. His Tesla Gigafactory, a 5.5-million-square-foot battery factory under construction outside Reno, Nev., is expected to employ 6,500 people in manufacturing jobs by 2020.

Infrastructure is going to be the big topic of discussion for job creation in the new year. Here are three recent must-read stories.

Robin Wigglesworth: “Stock markets look forward to Trump infrastructure boost” (Financial Times): 

The day after Donald Trump’s shock presidential victory, William Sandbrook, the chief executive of US Concrete, woke up to see his company’s shares rocket more than 12 per cent in the first three minutes of frenzied trading.

“It was interesting,” he deadpans. Mr Sandbrook had stayed up late to see futures markets initially shudder at the prospects of President Trump, and then become comfortable with the idea after an unexpectedly magnanimous acceptance speech. But the ferocity of the rally was a surprise. “I thought we’d have a good day, but I didn’t anticipate this,” he admits.

After the initial flash of panic, Mr Trump’s unlikely victory has electrified the US stock market, where investors are eagerly anticipating corporate tax cuts, regulatory loosening and an infrastructure spending spree. Companies such as US Concrete — which gets about 15 per cent of its revenue from infrastructure projects — were among the biggest winners. The Texan company’s shares are up almost a quarter since the election.

“Any stocks having to do with infrastructure spending have taken off regardless of underlying fundamentals in the hopes that a large fiscal stimulus plan is coming that will have us rebuilding all roads and bridges,” says Brett Ewing, chief market strategist at First Franklin Financial Services.

Bloomberg Editorial: “How to Make Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Work” (Bloomberg View) 

Adam Chandler: “Infrastructure Is Only Popular Without Concrete Details” (The Atlantic

Robert Verbruggen at the American Conservative finds a “Populist-Conservative Melting Pot” in the nascent Trump Administration. His description of the populist plants of Trump’s platforms overlaps with what we’ve called “the Greatness Agenda.” After discussing immigration and trade, Verbruggen identifies infrastructure projects as a major populist win:

Trump has chosen Steve Bannon, a strong advocate of the president-elect’s trillion-dollar infrastructure plan, as his chief strategist and senior counselor. And Elaine Chao, Trump’s choice for transportation secretary, has a little-remembered record of supporting rail projects. (Today she’s best known as George W. Bush’s despised-by-unions labor secretary. Incidentally, she’s married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.)

Ideally, boosting infrastructure spending will create construction jobs, stimulate the economy, and facilitate future growth, though some experts have doubts. The plan could merely dole out tax breaks to investors and contractors for projects that would have taken place anyway, or focus on unnecessary new projects without maintaining our current infrastructure, for example.

ICYMI

Molly Worthen: “Can I Go to Great Books Camp?” (New York Times): 

Why have philosophical summer schools become a vibrant subculture on the right, but only a feeble presence on the left? The disparity underscores a divide between conservatives and liberals over the best way to teach young people — and, among liberals, a certain squeamishness about the history of ideas.

Liberals, however, can’t afford to dismiss Great Books as tools of white supremacy, or to disdain ideological training as the sort of unsavory thing that only conservatives and communists do. These are powerful tools for preparing the next generation of activists to succeed in the bewildering ideological landscape of the country that just elected Mr. Trump.

Damon Linker: “How conservatives out-intellectualized progressives” (The Week

Freddie deBoer is an unabashed left-wing professor at Brooklyn College who follows premises to their conclusions. He often wishes other leftists and so-called progressives would, too:

This is a constant condition for me: interacting with liberals and leftists who affect a stance of bored impatience, who insist that the answers to moral and political questions are so obvious that every reasonable person already agrees, who then lack the ability to explain the thinking underlying their answers to those questions in a remotely compelling way. Everything is obvious; all the hard work is done; only an idiot couldn’t see what the right thing to do is. And then you poke a little bit at the foundation and it just collapses. I suppose the condescension and the fragility are related conditions, the bluster a product of the insecurity at the heart of it all. You act like everything is obvious precisely because you can’t articulate your position.

Steve Hayward: “‘Post-Truth’ Media Should Look in the Mirror” (PowerLine): 

Who is it that created this “post-truth” climate? Once again, it was liberalism. And just how vigorously has the mainstream media ever stood against this nihilist undertow? That would be zip, zilch, nada. What Scottie Nell Hughes said on the radio is standard leftist orthodoxy. But like the time an independent counsel was used against a Democrat, liberals hate it when their doctrines are used against them.

To the contrary, speaking of “fake news,” I recall a certain prominent journalist—I’d rather not repeat his name—who trafficked in a wholly fake news story about a president, and whose forged documents were defended as “fake, but accurate.” So the media doesn’t have a lot of standing to complain about “fake news” just now, let alone a “post-truth” world they helped create.

I’ll have more about the Electoral College shenanigans on Friday, but in the meantime: “two Colorado presidential electors Tuesday filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging a state law that requires them to vote for the winner of the state’s popular vote,” the Denver Post reports. (With more at The Hill.)

Can you even? Because these women literally can’t

Last but not least . . .

Stephanie Land, single mother of two, wants you to know that she’s off the market. The reason? Trump. As Land took pains to explain in the Washington Post on Monday :

I’ve lost the desire to attempt the courtship phase. The future is uncertain. I am not the optimistic person I was on the morning of Nov. 8, wearing a T-shirt with “Nasty Woman” written inside a red heart. It makes me want to cry thinking of that. Of seeing my oldest in the shirt I bought her in Washington, D.C., that says “Future President.”

There is no room for dating in this place of grief. Dating means hope. I’ve lost that hope in seeing the words “President-elect Trump.”

Yikes!

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China • Foreign Policy

Trump’s Taiwan Call Advances U.S. Interests

trump trolls red china boosts taiwan

America’s foreign policy elites are in an uproar. Again. Or maybe it’s still. It’s hard to keep track of where one censorious tantrum ends and the next begins. This time their casus belli is the President-elect’s phone conversation with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

They warn us that this upsets the delicate international balance and that Donald Trump is a know-nothing cowboy acting without either knowledge or understanding.

Distinguished academics like NYU’s Ian Bremmer assumes that Trump’s political acts are nothing more than involuntary spasms, postulating that he “inadvertently caused a major diplomatic incident.”

The presumption is that since Trump is breaking with the current orthodoxy that he must be doing so accidentally.

It also ignores the fact that Trump is being counseled by Ambassador John Bolton, who wrote back in January that the United States should be countering China’s aggression in East Asia “may involve modifying or even jettisoning the ambiguous ‘one-China’ policy.”

Yet the more the critics talk the more they expose their own ignorance. American policy regarding the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the People’s Republic of China (Mainland China) is really not that complicated. Rather, it is predicated on a conflict and a fiction. Both are Made in America.

Read the rest at The Hill.

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